Unprecedented government cuts will lead to major reductions across a host of council services over the next few years, the leader of Lambeth Council has warned.
The enormous scale of the cuts from central government, which are likely to add up to around a third of the council’s budget over the next four years, mean that every resident will notice the change as a range of services that people rely on are affected, from street cleaning, graffiti removal, and maintenance of parks, to library services, investment in housing estates and sports facilities.
Lambeth councillors are due to meet on February 23 to consider how the council makes the necessary new cuts of £37 million this year. The scale of the cuts mean that this represents the biggest financial challenge the council has ever faced.
At the same time, councillors have vowed to do their best to protect as best as possible crucial services for the most vulnerable, such as home care services for elderly and disabled people, help for victims of domestic violence, and children with special needs.
However, with Lambeth facing £79 million government cuts over the next three years, it is warning that many services will have to be reduced or stopped.
Cllr Steve Reed, leader of Lambeth Council, said; ”We are facing a huge and unprecedented reduction in our budget this year and residents shouldn’t underestimate the effects these cuts will have on services over the next few years.
“These have been the hardest choices we have ever had to make. Our priority is to do all we can to ensure that the most vulnerable people are not disproportionally affected by the Government grant cuts. We have also worked with the police to ensure that there will be extra uniformed officers on the beat around Lambeth so the borough remains safe.
“It’s absolutely right to protect the most vulnerable in Lambeth but this has to come at the expense of other important council services.“
Under the proposals, which will be discussed at the council’s cabinet and approved by a meeting of the full council, a raft of services will have to be scaled back or closed in order to meet the financial black hole in the council’s budget caused by cuts to government grants.
Cllr Reed continued; “The Government has cut our money so we are forced to cut our services. I don’t want to cut street cleaning, the park ranger service or spending on potholes but it’s right that we prioritise services for people who are most vulnerable.
“I do not believe that any of my council colleagues came into public service to oversee decisions of this scale, but we have no other option now but to look at cutting or reducing some services, and it’s clear that services that people use every day will be affected.”
The council has to find £37 million of savings this year following the announcement of the government settlement, double what was expected. The council’s cabinet will meet to discuss the proposals on February 7, and a meeting of the full council will formally agree the budget on February 23.
Services that are likely to see a reduction in funding or could be stopped include:
- The park ranger service
- Reduction in highway maintenance levels and potholes
- Less maintenance of the borough’s parks
- Regeneration schemes on housing estates
- The school crossing patrol service which currently serves 24 schools
- Street cleaning levels are likely to be reduced
- Christmas lights and decorations are likely to be stopped and businesses approached to fund town centre decorations
- Three out of four Public toilets could close with the council instead promoting its ‘Community Toilet Scheme’
- Maintenance of the borough’s parks, cemeteries and crematoria is likely to be scaled back.
- Discretionary freedom passes for adults with mental health problems
- Noise nuisance service
- Reduction in the Faith Engagement Programme, which helps to support events such as Holocaust Memorial Day and Peace on the Streets and other community events and projects.
Key services that the council is aiming to protect:
- 22 PCSOs who are directly funded by the council and provide support to Safer Neighbourhood Teams
- Front line Children’s Social Care Services – protecting Lambeth’s most vulnerable children and young people from harm.
- Services to children with special needs and disabilities
- Early Intervention – services working with families needing support to keep children and young people safe
- Adult Social Care.
- All council run day centres for vulnerable people.
- The anti-social behaviour rapid response team will continue
- Services to victims of domestic violence.
- Weekly refuse collections will continue
- The annual Lambeth Country Show, fireworks display and Activate Sports Festival will continue.